My Neve’r’nder… #CelebratingNevender

I am beside myself, lost in an overwhelming sense of grief. Since I heard, I’ve had brief moments of sanity that last no longer than a few minutes then disintegrate back into loss and disbelief.

All it took were three messages, three messages that propelled me from a lazy Sunday morning (debating on whether to go to Church or do homework) to a state of numbness with intermittent clouds of sanity. I rushed to the UGBloggers group and there was nothing there about this news, so perhaps these people were wrong. Patricia wasn’t among the three, so surely there had been some form of miscommunication. We had our group, the three of us. A group that was initiated by the fact that some agency would not pay us for the work we had done and we needed coordinated strategies on how to communicate with them – You were the more diplomatic of the three of us. We called it TeamReview. A group that later turned into a place where we could quickly check-in with each other. TeamReview had nothing about this news – I rushed to ask Patricia but she was only finding out herself.

You were gone.

This wasn’t a crisis that you were going to recover from. There wasn’t a message looking for volunteers to help cover the event because you were not feeling well.

This time, you were gone.

Gone for good.

I am still having a hard time processing this (whatever processing is supposed to mean). I know that 60% of my tears are selfish, in the fact that I cannot believe I will not see you when I come home, I cannot believe we are not going to have a tea date. I cannot believe that you are not going to post anything on TeamReview.

On my birthday last year, you bought me a copy of Flame and Song! You knew I would love it… You got my weird taste in literature and always encouraged it. You told me to get Kintu, and I wasn’t having it – then Jackee gifted me a copy when I started my writing journey and I fell in absolute love with that book. Tail between my legs, I returned back to you with my verdict and had that I-told-you-so look all over your face.

I usually say we met back when blogging was the dope in-thing – complete with awesome pseudonyms. Yours was Nevender but for some reason, there were those (I may have been among the ‘those’) that added the ‘r’ and boy did it irk you royally! Almost like how Rogue King would sometimes be called Rouge King, and he never liked it either. I remembered your reaction and for the gentle soul in you, I couldn’t see you being annoyed over this, so the name stuck for me.

I later found out that we were both at Nakasero Primary School, class of ’97. The ones who prided themselves in the fact that we studied with the years – Lol! I realise that this is such a Ugandan thing to say. So the truth is, we were always meant to be in each other’s radar.

I fought with you constantly in those early blogger years – Looking back, I blame the momentary disease called ‘the-twenties‘. Even still, you were steadfast in our friendship – the solid one who held onto his beliefs no matter what was going on around you. I became your review board, you shared your graphics with me and I’d give you my rather novice-biased opinion at the time. I just scrolled back to our earliest emails, there are some horrendously atrocious designs in there – from banners I made about your thoughts, to BlogBpirit banners to UBHH banners. You won’t mind if I share some, would you?

When you were changing your website template, I was once again on the review board, and the first design would always be a “hmmm… this is not working” and we would work through why together. Basic Family, when it was just starting out and you told me about it, we looked over what the logo would look like, t-shirts.

Similarly, you encouraged me on my writing journey. I remember confiding in you about taking Jackee’s class and you telling me to go for it. The book reviews I got, I was trying so hard to write like you and I was failing miserably. At one point, I sent you an IM in distress… this review thing is terrible, I lamented. You said to use my own style, not to try and mimic you. You told me to be authentic and find my own voice. And I did, and you said that you like my review-style, which for me was the highest form of praise.

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This year did not start out great for me, and I remember posting in TeamReview and you reaching out after the fact – kindda like a followup conversation, but I wasn’t ready to talk so I actively avoided you. You wouldn’t have it, because I opened my eMail and there was a message from you. So I deflected to how you are and how you are holding up. You told us you were losing strength, and we would not have it. Not our Joel, so I got even more serious about praying harder for you – because for me that is my default. Let’s pray for a miracle, let’s pray for these crisises to stop, strength – anything rather than the thought of losing you.

There was a different plan already in motion…

We’ve talked about a lot of things over the years, from faith to music to literature to relationships to the trending twitter wars. We have spurred on some of them and shared frustrations about some of them. There is so much I want to write, but I’m 1 word shy of the 1500 mark and I remember having a ‘serious’ discussion with you about the length of your posts. I know that you always read my blogs, some days you were the only comment I got (You knew about my obsession with analytics).

This is going to be the first one you will not read.

We were supposed to write my memoir together. Now who is going to help me? You were always one step ahead of me, though. I did not know about Pumpkin Soup, I am not sure why – or maybe you told me and in the story that is my life I did not hear you say it.

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You wrote that. Why would you write that? If I’d read that, I’d have berated you for writing that! I’m going to miss you so much, Joel! I should be saying RIP, I cannot believe I’m writing that, but I can’t. I cannot physically bring myself to say those words out loud.

I had a dream about you, Joel. You were so happy in this dream. So happy I could feel it, you were working with someone famous – I knew who it was in the dream, but wouldn’t figure it out when I woke up. We had each been having a crappy month, so finally something good, even if it was just a dream. I rushed to tell you guys and you both told me to remember who the person was, but I just laughed it off.

I sat at the front of Church today, I wanted to stare God in the face and ask why? Every single song sounded like you saying bye to me, Joel. So of course I cried my-way through the first half hour. After Church, I half walked half cried my way around Oakland, and walked straight into another Church. A catholic one, this time, I just sat at the back and just sat there – lost. I just needed time. Time process – there is that word again… I knew if I went home, it would be real (indeed I got home and couldn’t speak, just cried even more in Judith’s arms). After the service, I lit a candle for you. I looked for the tallest one, it looked new, I hope the flame won’t get blown out. Just like your flame will not burn out in my heart.

They say that time heals all wounds, but what they really mean is that soon, you will forget and forgetting is the band-aide to heartache. I cry because while this a reality of life, I do not want to forget you. I do not want to forget your laugh. I do not want to forget your voice.

In many ways, you were my counsel and support. Your ear was never far and your heart always attentive to what I was saying or trying not to say. You were both sensitive and attentive to those that were around you. Your wisdom and conversation always widened my perspective. Your essence always a calm wind to the turmoil that I would bring to the table.

Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa, my Neve’r’nder.
You are gone.

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Photo Credits: Mostly Facebook/Twitter.

Funeral Arrangements are in the graphic below and details on where/how to send mabugo.

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#Writivism2016 Mannequins are beige, alert the sand dunes!

It is six days later, the sun is still shining, darkness still falls over the land and the birds are still noisy. In short, life has moved on – even the aftertaste is slowly but quickly fading.

Writivism saw the meeting of some of the continent’s most talented literary minds. I say some because there were some who were obviously missing (*sigh* Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, one day we shall meet…) and also because I believe there are many authors out there who couldn’t make it, have not heard of the festival or have not yet been discovered.

Truth be told, it’s been a while since I have made the time to soak in and indulge in my literary passion. One week of shamelessly buying more books, while picking up and putting back others that my heart was tempting me to own. Most evenings were spent listening to authors read and perform some of their work, others spent discussion our reaction to certain themes.

Some themes that stuck with me revolved around Francophone Africa and Decolonization. As I write this, I am sipping my favorite Blackcurrant Bracer tea courtesy of the London Fruit and Herb company. No, the irony is not lost on me, but rather, it’s the realisation that I take no notice when I am reaching out for F&H instead of Mpanga or Kericho. When I’m stuck in traffic and to pass the time I resort to taxi-window shopping, I mostly notice the clothes and never the color of the mannequin. The issue of colonisation outside of my social studies class, is not one that has ever come up. Until Writivism, that is.

Panashe remarked on this during Zukiswa’s keynote, about how even though we are one continent, we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss another’s struggles just because where we are from, that particular struggle is not one people deal with.

Also for the first time, I encountered the word decolonisation and how we are subtly losing certain aspects of our story without even realising it.

This was also a week when it dawned on me that there are certain sections of Africa that do not speak English – *pause* mind blowing isn’t it? An African who thinks everyone in Africa understands English… This is especially embarrassing for me, seeing as I spent some time in Rwanda. And perhaps, it is just me, but there has been an underrepresentation of Francophone Africa – where underrepresentation is open to interpretation. While there still some kinks, it was awesome to see and hear questions being asked in French.

Last really cool highlight for me, was titles. For some reason, and I have no idea where I picked this up from – I have always believed that I needed to keep the title short, sweet and relevant. I always believed that a title should not be a sentence on it’s own. As you can see from previous posts, I have since let go of such beliefs. What is my new belief? A title can in some way represent the story or certain aspects of it or sometimes, just make it a fun title and give the readers a good laugh.

All in all, it was an amazing week well spent!

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#Writivism2016 Day 5: The colonies are coming…

It’s four o’clock, my regular boda guy is late, I’m tapping my foot impatiently under my desk as my eyes turn back to the code I was troubleshooting. You see I am a writer of software by day and a writer of fiction by night. After one last satisfactory glance, I start to pack up, I don’t want to miss the keynote- but clearly I am going to be late. I don’t like being late, especially when it is not a weekend morning. When he finally gets to the office, he apologizes – traffic he says. Apprehensive at the thought that I am going to be further delayed, traffic means weaving through mildly irritated Ugandans driving at the mercy of the officer in white. When did I get so impatient, I wonder!

I finally get to the museum, geared and ready for Day 5 of Writivism – on the line up: a keynote by Zukiswa Wanner titled ‘Decolonizing African Literature’; another triple book launch: Ghosts of 1894 by Odour Jagero, A Poetic Duet by Jane p’Bitek and Sophie Bamwoyeraki, and 100 Days by Juliane Okot Bitek; Femrite at 20 hosted by Afrikult and a performance of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.

I think you understand why it was important not to be late or tarry anywhere, least of all be interrupted by traffic.

Tiptoeing into the room, I found a chair next to Ntwatwa (of the Nevender fame), right behind Nyana (of the Soo Many Stories fame), and in front of Nwokolo (author of How To Spell Naija II, launched on Day 4). Little did I know, this was to be the fate of my night, rubbing shoulders with the greats. Lugging my helmet, jumper and a 1 litre jerrycan of honey, I sit as quietly as I can.

Wanner was speaking, so effortlessly and poised – it’s hard not to give her your full attention. The topic of her address, Decolonizing African Literature. To be honest I was a skeptic until today, perhaps it is the use of the term decolonize. All week, I have found myself alienated from this term. In the discussion after the keynote, Chigumadzi (author of Sweet Medicine, launched on Day 3) asked a question that dealt with the fact that different parts of Africa were dealt with varying degrees of the white gaze. In one part of the continent, they will exclaim – ‘ah! just move on‘ and in another part not so much. I found myself in the first category until today, you see, life has a whole host issues that grab at me, demanding for my attention. Attempting to add Speke and Grant to the list seemed unnecessary – however, remember the multiple facets?

So what changed today? Today, I remembered the first story I ever wrote. I was in P5 and the characters in my story: all young girls who were best friends, they had bluish green eyes with pale blond hair. Sound familiar? Let me tell you about the story that I wrote in my S4 vacation, a princess born in a poor family who is madly attracted to the crown prince. However, the queen dislikes her immensely so she finally gives up and joins the royal air force.

Get the point? How easy it was for a young version of me to relate to characters the look nothing like me? Very easy. That is what I was surrounded with – Bradford, Steel, Follet, Archer, Clancy, Grisham, Sheldon and the characters that they gave birth to. This was my perceived definition of story telling. This was the definition of story telling according to them, to these authors.

And I wasn’t the only one in this boat, in fact, the only reason why I remembered my old stories was because someone in the audience mentioned the exact same thing, writing about blue eyes and blond hair. How then can we change? Someone asked, after all it hasn’t taken just one person to get here, nor did this never happen overnight. How do we change the minds of publishers and distributers, making them more willing to give African themed literature a chance? How do we convince schools that as much as Ngugi wa thiong’o will always remain a timeless classic, there are other noteworthy books that can be added to the curriculum? How do we convince book clubs, within our own continent, on this rock that we call Africa – how do we convince them that African published books are not to be shunned?

What would happen if we got together, bought copies of our five favourite books, and donated them to our high schools?

– Zukiswa Wanner, Writivism 2016

The next session was chaired by Henry Brefo and Zaahida Nabagereka of Afrikult – the Femrite at 20 session! On the panel was Hilda Twongyeirwe, Harriet Anena and Bonita Arinaitwe. We were taken on the journey of Femrite from the beginning, focusing on the main idea that the founding members had when starting the initiative. A place that encourages and supports Ugandan women in their writing. Femrite has two types of memberships, Monday club which is open to all and the second a more formal membership which includes a nominal subscription. At Monday club, texts are submitted anonymously and then critiqued by the entire group.

Arinaitwe, a young girl who published her first book when she was 10 – and currently has two books out, told us that one of her inspirations is her father. He recognized her talent and told her if she wrote a book, he would go ahead and publish it. She laughed as she said, I thought he was joking.

Her father, who was also in attendance remarked on the impact that Femrite had on his daughter. Reminiscing about the first time they went for Monday club, the members treated Arinaitwe as though she was a writer. He said he held his head in his hands as he listened the barrage of questions that were being fired at his girl, every now and then wanting to protest, asking them if they couldn’t see that she was a young girl. However, to his surprise and to her credit, Arinaitwe rose to the occasion and gracefully answered everything that was asked of her. He applauded them for the support that they have shown his daughter on her literary dream.

Anena talked about her journey to publishing and about how she took the road of self publication because she got rejected by publishing houses. When asked about the cost, she said something that I found to be profound: she saved towards her book. You may roll your eyes all you want, but people saving towards projects in Uganda is not a very common phenomenon.

While Femrite is boasting of a growing base of members, initiatives like this need ideas on how to remain sustainable. So incase you have any ideas, do reach out to them. A question was asked on whether they would consider focusing on playwrights as well and not just novels and poetry. To which Baingana (author of Tropical Fish) answered, she encouraged people with a passion for playwrights to join in on Monday club and take part in the discussions. Thus helping create an atmosphere where other playwrights can engage but also exposing their particular style and art to the poets and novelists.

Because the Femrite at 20 session was happening concurrently with the triple book launch, I was only able to catch the end of the book launch.

That included a reading by Jagero out of his book Ghosts of 1894 and listening to a discussion on A Poetic Duet by Jane p’Bitek and Sophie Bamwoyeraki.

Both p’Bitek and Bamwoyeraki, read three poems each and you could tell they both had their own distinct voices. This in turn raised the question on why a duet, and how they managed the dynamic of two writers each with their own distinct voice. From their camaraderie and how they seemed to have an air of ease about them; made me begin to consider partnerships.

They mentioned that one thing that helped them was having a theme as the central idea that they both focused on but each interpreted in their own style. Which is really interesting when you think about it, I’ve taught myself to believe in following and adhering to certain structures and rules – which I now believe has led to my unwitting participation in censorship.

Sadly, I was unable to go for the performance of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, but hope that I will get a chance to own a copy of the book

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Today, I met four awe-inspiring ladies: Nakisanze Segawa – author of The Triangle, Harriet Anena – author of A Nation in Labor, Beatrice Lamwaka – author of Butterfly Dreams, shortlisted for Caine Prize 2011, Doreen Baingana – author of Tropical Fish, winner Commonwealth Writers Prize

The Writivism Festival is an initiative that brings together established writers from the African Continent and beyond.

It will be happening this week (22nd to 28th of August) at the Uganda Museum.
Monday – Thursday: 6pm – 8pm;
Friday: 12pm – 8pm;
Saturday: 10am – 8pm;
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm.

#Writivism2016 Day 4: Tell Me A Story In A Language That Moves You…

A Triple book launch AND a Long Story Short Staged Readings is what was planned for tonight. Unfortunately, I could not attend all the events, however, I did manage to get the first half hour of the triple book launch.

The books on the line up were: The Triangle by Nakisanze Segawa, How to Spell Naija II by Chuma Nwokolo and We are All Blue by Donald Molosi. This session was moderated by Nwokolo, who I think was a fun and engaging host.

We started off a bit late with people trickling in at their own pace, so Nwokolo got a brilliant idea on how to lure them in. He gave those of us who were in the room the plan and we were all in agreement.

Up he stood, book in hand, in a bold loud voice – he started to read. Was the story already written on the pages of the book, I have no idea. As he read aloud, people started coming in and with everyone who entered, we clapped as loudly as we could – as if we wholehearted agreed with what he had just said.

It was probably the clapping that caused the tarrying feet to pick up their pace – Ingenious idea Nwokolo, ingenious! Standing ovation from the timekeepers in the room!

After he made the introductions, we dived head first into Molosi’s We are All Blue. Sadly, Molosi was unable to come however, he was well represented by his publisher – Shaun Randol. Randol talked about the significance of the book not only in Botswana but also in the US, where the book speaks to racial tension. What had me amused was that this is not a novel but a play packaged in a book. Who does that? Packages a play into a book?

One of the organizers of a local arts festival raised a question about how she found it difficult to convince publishers to take on similar publishing projects because they were more interested in work that had the potential to make it onto a school curriculum. She then proposed that Randol take a look at the different works coming out of East Africa. To which he responded in the affirmative. He did note that he was not initially looking to publish drama, but that Molosi’s manuscript was powerful enough to change his mind.

Next up was Nakisanze who took us into a little background about her book, The Triangle, and some of her reasons for the angles she took while writing it. She took a reading in English and then also gave an electrifying brief performance in Luganda. In her words, the book takes on the life of Kabaka Mwanga and especially the periods of his life that are not popular in history text books.

One particular question that she got asked that had me bobbing my head was, how did she make the choice on what to include in her book and what to leave out of her book. To which she responded, that her research did lead her to a staggering wealth of information, but she was urged by fellow writer, Jennifer Makumbi (of the Kintu fame – book review here) not to include every single thing into her book. After all she was not writing a historical piece but a book in which she was going to weave truth and fiction.

Which makes me wonder about where one is supposed to draw the line between fiction and fact? Who has the authority to do that especially when the protagonist in the story is a well known figure in the hallways of Ugandan history?

Then the intriguing question of language reared it’s head once again. For those of us whose first language is not English, there is the laborious task that involves thinking in your mother tongue first, then attempting to switch back to English. Most times, English does not truly portray the emotion that is bellied deep within the intonations and gestures that come along with speaking in a native tongue.

Unfortunately, that was all I had time for last evening as I had to rush off to another meeting. However, I did manage to get a recording of Nakisanze giving a short captivating performance of a scene from the book (The Triangle) in Luganda.

Enjoy!

The Writivism Festival is an initiative that brings together established writers from the African Continent and beyond.

It will be happening this week (22nd to 28th of August) at the Uganda Museum.
Monday – Thursday: 6pm – 8pm;
Friday: 12pm – 8pm;
Saturday: 10am – 8pm;
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm.

#Writivism2016 Day 3: Blame the innocent animals at the colonial playground.

Today saw the launch of 2 books, Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi and A Death Retold in Truth and Rumor by Grace Musila. While Professor Musila was unable to make it, Chigumadzi was part of the session that was chaired by Bob Kisiki.

As usual, in what I am beginning to believe is proper literary fashion, both books sparked interesting conversation.

We dived into Professor Musila’s book first – A Death Retold in Truth and Rumor, a story of a tourist who is murdered in Masai Mara and the mystery surrounding her death. One of the reactions to this book was in relation to the different roles that the governments played and their reactions or lack thereof.

In the discussion, Africa became analogous to the colonial playground where every once in a while a royal will drop in to get engaged or visit a wildlife sanctuary.

There was some disbelief in the room when it was said that the blame at one point was shifted toward the animals at Masai Mara. After which the blame was turned onto something else. The invisible third force that crops up whenever superiors on the dark continent are put to task .

Chigumadzi took two readings out of her book, Sweet Medicine, and her writing really did take us there. Titsi, the main character of the book, came to life in those short pieces. For a person who has not yet read the book, I was able to get a teeny tiny picture into her story.

Tonights, Aha! moment: Chigumadzi said characters are not a vehicle to write about an issue but rather the other way round. Which is quite interesting when you think about it, I am notorious for trying to model a character after an issue that my mind has fixated on. However, as soon as I am done with that issue, then my character remains lingering with nowhere to go and nothing defined to do. I believe that this discussion started when a question was asked about whether she had a pretty good idea of where the story would lead or whether she just let the story develop as she went along.

Which makes me wonder about something else, do characters have a will of their own, aside from the agenda of the author?

One curious point was with regard to the duplicitous nature of Africans that was blamed on the fact that we would rather not put all our eggs in one basket. For a country that is largely Christian, why is there still a large number of callers to advert that says, ‘Do you want your ex back? Call this number 0777 123 456.

The question that closed off this session was directed toward the African Male, and whether they feel the pressure to be a blesser a.k.a Sugar Daddy?

The night was closed off by the Readers Choice Awards: with 11 submissions in the Ugandan Classics category and a whooping 47 submissions in the African category. The awards were hosted by the Afrikult team and Beewol.

In the Ugandan Classics category, the shortlisted titles were:
1. Kintu – Jennifer Makumbi
2. Fate of the Banished – Julius Ocwinyo
3. The Headline That Morning – Peter Kagayi
4. Song of Lawino – Okot P’Bitek
5. Tropical Fish – Doreen Baingana

In the African category, the shortlisted titles were:
1. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi
2. Black Ass – Igoni Barett
3. The Fisherman – Chigozie Obioma
4. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives Loya Shoneyin
5. Season of Crimson Blossoms – Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

The absence of francophone literature did not go unnoticed, this begged the question: Why? Is it that the call was not wide spread or…

The winners were Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.

Yes, I might have done the dance as I nominated and voted for Kintu because Kintu shattered my world and actually was the first African literature book I read and reviewed.

update: I am not sure how I forgot this, well maybe I do – I didn’t win grrrr…. Afrikult held a raffle at the end of the ceremony where Writivism tees, Anthology & a bag and chocolate were up for grabs. However, because #francophonevoicesmatter, the last raffle ticket was rounded off to the nearest number and we had our first francophone winner of the night.

The Writivism Festival is an initiative that brings together established writers from the African Continent and beyond.

It will be happening this week (22nd to 28th of August) at the Uganda Museum.
Monday – Thursday: 6pm – 8pm;
Friday: 12pm – 8pm;
Saturday: 10am – 8pm;
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm.

 

#Writivism2016 Day 1: Which side of the fence shall we sit on?

I’ve often been irked by the incessant need to portray one sided stories. This is often done by some western media outlets in an effort to grab that sexy headline. Some of our own media houses have been accused of this as well. As a result of this, I have become quite attached to a certain phrase – my favorite actually: the narrative needs to change. There is a growing number of people who believe that it needs changing.

But what is this narrative and who defines it? Are we simply a product of our upbringing and them of theirs and thus casting the blame onto someone else would seem a futile venture? Does the narrative lend itself to culture, therefore redefining and molding it into something else?

Permit me to paint a picture: some midwives will tell you intriguing stories about the labour ward. About the different ways we react during childbirth. About how some women are encouraged by their caregivers (read: mothers, aunts or sister) to let it out while others are gravely discouraged from uttering too loud a sound. If we are saying that at the root, a lot of us are either direct or indirect products of missionary schools, then why such opposite reactions to a phenomenon that elicits pain thresholds akin to little else.

Has the fact that the missionary schools (affectionately dubbed colonial schools) drummed into our heads: e is for effort and not emputa or b is for boat and not baba; turned us into a society of mindless drones that are constantly bobbing our heads to the beat of our master? With the absence of a master (read: independence), we then turn to fill the void with constant comparison to others even though the concept of living by the sea is foreign to us.

Has our authenticity been strongly enriched by the advent of colonial education? An education system that comprised of more than class instruction but also included ‘etiquette’ (for lack of a better word). Or did it heavily dilute all that initial wealth of experience that we carried with us to our first day of school; those experiences that were drummed out us by those we assume did not know better. Have we now become aliens in our own culture, the Bri-dans

An argument was raised that the only culture that has been forgotten, is that that was not liked to begin with. You will not teach your descendants, that which you do not want to associate with yourself. Perhaps the sidda mukyalo movement began with those who preferred to leave the village and everything in it behind.

Woudn’t it be remiss of us not to mention the plus side of colonial education, the perks and benefits would result in a long tiresome list that I’d rather not start – but feel free to highlight some that should be on this list in the comments section (see what I did there?).

Right now, looking back at our histories – a lot of us feel short changed, and maybe rightly so. But would we truly say that we would have been better off, if they hadn’t come? Would our popular movements today have been accepted in authentic African traditional society?

Today, I learned that the narrative is not a one-sided feature.
No. It is indeed, quite multifaceted.

These thoughts are as a result of listening to the explosive panel discussion that was at last evening’s book launch: Duc in Altum by Andrea Stultiens at Day 1 of Writivism 2016. The panelists included Rebecca Rwakabukoza, Andrea Stultiens, Dr Connie Nshemereirwe and Eria Nsubuga.

The Writivism Festival is an initiative that brings together established writers from the African Continent and beyond.

It will be happening this week (22nd to 28th of August) at the Uganda Museum.
Monday – Thursday: 6pm – 8pm;
Friday: 12pm – 8pm;
Saturday: 10am – 8pm;
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm.

#Writivism2016 is here…

With the back of her hand on her lips, she tries to suppress a smile. She finds that this is a little hard to do, as the corners of her lips are being pretty persistent. Her eyes gaze off, outside the window, past the palm trees on her horizon, further past the white fluff pasted on today’s blue sky.

She remembers 2016, at the very start. The resolutions she penned down.
More Writing. More Reading. At least that’s what her journal said. Keeping it an any type of reading or writing would be easy. No. She was determined to dive into the genre named ‘African’… 

Today, 9 stories (and book reviews) later – She is excited and anxious all a once. You see this is her first Writivism. Yes. That sort of thing is worthy of excitement with a heavy dose of anxiety.

She wants to meet these people that are coming — the ones living her dream! She has questions to ask them? How do they write? What happens when the story leaves you? How do you write of a place that you’ve never been? Where do they get the gall to attempt to change the narrative? Did they kill their editors? Did they follow Nike and just do it? Was the story already burdening them, forever assaulting their dreams and waking moments? Or did the words just sort of pop up on the page as they committed to it?

This festival has planned 7 days of mind-blowing literary conversation! From Book Launches, there is literally a launch every day – pun noted :), to Literary Agent Speed Dating – Yeah, that’s right! How fast can you pitch that book idea?

Other activities that she is pumped about are the Book Signings at the Autograph Points; Award Ceremonies (Okot p’Bitek Prize, Short Story Prize); Keynote Addresses (Zukiswa Wanner & Julius Ocwinyo); Readings; Performances and Films; Panels and Discussions on a whole range of things. She is seriously considering apologising to her boss and just pitching camp at the venue – for just seven days. What are the odds that she will be missed?

Truth be told, she is a bit overwhelmed. You see she is a newbie and will probably need a guide, lest she embarrasses herself.

I am she and I’m ready for #Writivism2016.
I hope to see you there!

The Writivism Festival is organised by the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE). The organisation’s flagship initiative that brings together established writers from the African Continent and beyond. The festival grooms young talent in the writing craft and engages in Workshops and Panel discussions revolving around critical issues relating to the creation and dissemination of African Literature. Though young, it is East Africa’s leading literary festival.

2016 is it’s 4th year running. It will be happening this week (22nd to 28th of August) at the Uganda Museum.
Monday – Thursday: 6pm – 8pm;
Friday: 12pm – 8pm;
Saturday: 10am – 8pm;
Sunday: 12pm – 8pm.

#Writivism2016 http://writivism.com/

Short Story Review: The List by Aito Osemegbe Joseph

This must be every parent’s nightmare… Well, actually almost every father’s nightmare.

That was my conclusion and I was only 85 words into the 3,465 worded piece. I giggled because I saw my late father written all over Aito’s introduction.

Aito spins a tale of old pride in cultures that are slowing dying. A reality that is seen in communities and countries that used to rely on certain traditions now making compromises and sometimes not for the better.

She was the stubborn fly that was following the corpse right into the grave.

A tale of parents’ expectations met with the very real reality of who they have raised and having to deal with the choices their children make.

As they slowly traverse the list, each member from either side coming to grips with the uncertainty that is about to enter their world.

“Eeeehhhhhhh, what is this? We asked for goats and you people are here with rabbits.” She struck her open mouth with her palm repeatedly, making mocking noises.

Two worlds, each from opposite ends of the spectrum and none of them about to back down.

In my opinion, this was a good read.

I especially like the detail with which Aito explores the thoughts running through Adaeze’s uncle’s head as well as the different emotions that surface through other key characters.

Aito also has the sneaky art of playing with emotions; as just when you are hopeful, he snatches the rug right from under you! Consider this your warning…

I think this story is easy to relate to because most of us know an Adaeze and sympathise with her uncle.

What would you have done, if you were Adaeze?
(Read the story here)

The List by Aito Osemegbe Joseph was announced as having been shortlisted for the Writivism 4th Annual Short Story Prize. It has now been published at Munyori Literary Journal head on over there to read it yourself

Short Story Review: SunDown by Acan Innocent Immaculate

Hmmm… I was left a little bit uncertain after reading this story. I almost want to persuade Acan to write an encore just to appease my uncertainty…**proceeds to cross fingers**

The setting is in apocalyptic earth, but Acan has a managed to spin the story way from the norm that is characterised by doom, gloom and we are all headed to hell… She takes on a certain wonder and almost playful voice that keeps your attention rapt and leaning in.

He must be the only human alive who’s happy to see the sun on her glorious deathbed

In the 3,460 worded story, we are introduced to Red – a little wonderer whose inquisitive nature draws you into the story of SunDown. His take and view of the world given his current state make you start to draw conclusions about what the ending will be like.

I credit Acan’s choice to include winter in this story. As bitter and bleak as winter can be, it also has the element of crisp & cleanness that it brings with it. The sense of starting a fresh or starting over, if you will. The white that washes over everything making it distinct and pristine…

Now the wind, he has always hated and will continue to do so. It is the snow’s bad tempered older cousin

Although, I was slightly amused by Red’s depiction of God, he reminded me so much of Gandalf. This leads me to mention the clever way in which Acan brought in the aspect of the ancient scriptures in moments that called for them. Now that, was brilliant!

In conclusion, this is not your usual apocalyptic themed story, this is one last-days story that you wouldn’t have too much of a hard time believing would happen.

SunDown by Acan Innocent Immaculate was announced as having been shortlisted for the Writivism 4th Annual Short Story Prize. It has now been published at Munyori Literary Journal head on over there to read it yourself

Short Story Review: Boyi by Gloria Mwaniga Minage

I am not sure about other cultures around the world, however, I have found that African culture is filled with the oddest colloquialisms. These are often belted out by an angry parent faced with a child whose troubles they cannot comprehend. These ridiculously funny sayings are often used in speech but rarely in written prose.

Our very boys, who ate oaths to protect our ancestral land have turned on us like the hungry chameleon that eats its intestines

Mwaniga’s 3,492 worded story of indebtedness and the audacity to present living collateral. Mwaniga presents one of the stories behind land rows, the kind you will not find on your television sets – but may be on radio, local community radio if they dared.

She aptly presents the frailty of a mother’s broken spirit and resolve to believe in any hope that she can clutch onto, as well as a father’s anguish and his strong innate need to justify the actions that ensued.

She tells the story through the eyes of an observer, a witness to the silent madness that proceeds a home stolen of joy. She also aptly presents the effectiveness of the local community communication system, which was a real marvel considering how glued we are to our cellphones in the real world.

Do you think the plague of deafness descended on us in the night?

Mwaniga makes you feel the pain of her characters.

Her style of writing made this book an easy, very believable read.

Boyi by Gloria Mwaniga Minage was announced as having been shortlisted for the Writivism 4th Annual Short Story Prize. It has now been published at Munyori Literary Journal head on over there to read it yourself